This "one from the archives" post is from 2006, when we had gone from the excitement of New York to the serenity of Nova Scotia. It's an unexpected tale about niceness in the city and rudeness in the country. You'd think I said that wrong, right? Well, see for yourself...

New York’s still unbelievable … (Hang on while I dig into my photos.) Where else can you view a Picasso …

… shop in stores that dazzle the senses …

… and of course, do Chinatown:

But, for all its reputation for fast-paced excitement, I encountered mostly patient people. When we checked out of the Park Central Hotel (my wife found a cheap deal on the Internet), I tipped the doorman a fiver and asked if I could wait outside for a few minutes before leaving, as my wife and daughter were still on their way down from the room.

“Take your time,” he said. I thought that was pretty good of him. There I was, parked directly outside the revolving front doors of one of the busier hotels in the city (taxis rushing by, people everywhere, and the doorman attending to at least five different parties), and I’m not rushed at all. That’s fucking service.

That was essentially one moment from the beginning of our trip. Now let’s fast forward more than a week to the very end of our stay in Nova Scotia.

We’d rented a farm for the week in a small town called Tatamagouche (pronounced “tattama-gush”) — not quite Brigadoon, but certainly idyllic. The owner would visit twice each day to feed the goats, sheep, mini horses, and other livestock. Talking to this man, you got the sense that he had no concept of the high blood pressure problems plaguing people in larger cities. Life was blueberry fields, raising pheasants, and a small herd of gently bleating goats that eat three coffee cans of corn and sweet mix twice daily.

By the sixth day, I’d have sworn I knew the man, you know? We’d have these great evening conversations … “So, what’d you do today?” he’d ask, the faintest highlander accent still present in his voice.

“Oh, we spent the day rockhoundingdown in Parrsboro,” I’d say.

“Fantastic!” he’d answer. “Did you make it to the fossil cliffs at Joggins?”

“Not yet. Hopefully tomorrow.”

“Oh, be sure to do it if you can. If you like geology, you’ll love that place. No one ever returns disappointed.”

That kind of communication — pleasant, helpful conversation. He’d pause every so often to explain some farming concept to my daughter, who’d simply fallen in love with the goats. If I’d have written a character sketch of the man at that point in time, I’m sure I’d have used to word “patient” somewhere within the text.

And then the morning of our departure arrived. He’d said earlier that checkout was at 9:00 a.m., which was fine by us, as we wanted to get an early start back to Maine. I had the car packed as of 8:45 a.m. and was futzing around outside while my wife finished showering. It was a typical Nova Scotia morning — misty and reminiscent, I suppose, of the homeland. (Nova Scotia is Latin for “New Scotland.”)

He pulled up at 8:55 a.m. — no “hello” “good morning” or anything. He simply rolled down his window and glared angrily at me. “Nine A.M.!” he growled. “I clearly told you checkout is nine sharp!”

That’s odd, I thought. Why should he be so angry? Maybe he just needs some reassurance that we’re hitting the road any minute now. I mean — who knows? — maybe he’d had a bad experience once or something where he’d shown up in the morning and his guests had not even begun packing. So, I tried offering a few words, crafted to set him at ease. “We’re all packed up and ready,” I said. “We’ll be on the road in five minutes, I expect. My wife’s just finishing her shower and we’ll be off.”

That didn’t help, apparently. He jumped out of his SUV and began huffing and puffing, carrying cleaning supplies from his trunk to the front porch, all the while angrily repeating, “Out by NINE … That’s ALL I ask of you.” He said that about three times, and I just stood there in a state of confusion. Was this the same gentleman who’d stopped by the night before with a parting gift (a small bottle of locally made maple syrup)?

“We’re all packed,” I repeated. “We’ll be on the road in less than five minutes — just as soon as my wife gets out of the shower. We’re completely ready to leave.”

“It’s TWO minutes till nine!,” he yelled. “The cleaning ladies will be here in two minutes! Go and tell your wife to finish now. Tell her to take a towel with her and finish drying off in the car if she has to. It’s ALL I ASK of you, ALL I ASK…” He was muttering incomprehensibly at this point.

So, go figure … I tip a doorman in New York City a fiver and I get the friendliest “Take your time” I’ve ever heard (right on 7th Avenue off Central Park, no less!) and Mr. Gentleman Farmer’s idea of Nova Scotian hospitality is directing me to order my wife to rush out of the farmhouse naked (a farmhouse we paid about $1,300 for the week for, mind you) and finish dressing in the car?!

So strange... Prior to that final morning, I genuinely liked that guy.